Let the Past Be Present?

As I’m on this journey of falling in love with TV again, I’ve been watching a lot of things that have inspired me; I feel like I have stories again. Stories are exactly what you want to have when you’re someone like me- so Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, and OnDemand have been my very best friends lately (outside of the real ones, of course). Anyway, watching romantic comedies, relationship struggles, and the ever-popular epic love story has given me some new thoughts about love that I’d like to share, one issue at a time…

I’ve found that the thing that usually gives couples the most trouble (on TV, at least) is the secret past. It got me to thinking about my own past- and how much of it I should be keeping a secret. I wonder what to do when I’m in love again- or even when I’m in like again. Is full disclosure the best way? Should I be keeping it all to myself, or only the parts that I think will invite judgement? Do I tell everything? Do I want to know everything? And if I keep it to myself, does it mean I’m not really in love? Does it show a lack of trust? The characters on TV are always full of anger when they find out something they think they should have been told. But I often wonder, if they had been told, would they have been full of anger anyway? Full of disgust?

In my last relationship, I wanted to be an open book. I’m a storyteller- it’s what I do. I create characters- and I let people into their inner thoughts. I let people into their pasts. I write what they’re thinking, and feeling. What they’re ashamed of, what they’re afraid of. And since I’m often writing about love, I thought that being in love gave me a great opportunity to let someone into my inner thoughts, into my past. I resolved to do it, even when I struggled, even when I was uncomfortable. I thought I had to- for it to be real. I thought I had to- for it to be honest. But the more layers I peeled away, the more I felt like I was losing something- and not gaining anything. I didn’t feel safe anymore- comfortable in my own skin. I felt like a zoo animal on display. And the worst part was, I felt like he was taking what I did, and turning it into who I was. I felt his judgement in everything he said, and in everything he didn’t say.

My mom always says, ” Everybody needs something for themselves.” Now, I don’t know if my mom was talking specifically about past experiences, but I’d like to think that saying has merit in this situation. Everyone needs something, some part of them, that they don’t have to share with anyone else- unless of course, someone else was there at the time. But you get my meaning. You should have the right not to rehash it- not if you don’t want to. I know that people think you should share everything- you should trust your partner- you should open yourself up. But that can backfire (as my last relationship and TV have also shown me, lol). Inevitably, you get the answer to a question you never would have asked, inevitably you get information you never should have known. So sometimes its hard to decide if you would tell, because it’s hard to decide if you would want to know- if the shoe was on the other foot.

Now, I know everyone thinks I’m only talking about the sexual past. Yes, this is an important one- because it seems to be the one that gets people in the most trouble. Sexual pasts are graphic, and loud, and the hardest to get away from. They carry over, because most things in your sexual past are being shared by you AND someone else (or multiple people, depending on what you’re into). So you have to think about protecting their privacy too. It’s tricky, to say the least. But that’s why it’s important to think hard beforehand about the situations you put yourself into- and use protection. But in case you don’t, I don’t think you should feel obligated to share everything you’ve ever done. Or everyone you’ve ever done, for that matter. It doesn’t help anyone to know the exact number of people you’ve been with, or the things you did to spice things up, or the things you did because the one you loved wanted to try something new so badly. I think that if you feel comfortable enough, you can share- and if you don’t- don’t. What you do does contribute to you- but what you do (or what you did) is NOT who you are. But sexual pasts aren’t the only kind there are. Some people have traumatic, emotionally damaging events in their pasts. Now, I know I said that what you do isn’t who you are- but sometimes what other people do to you- can become who you are. It shapes the way you think, the decisions you make- it can effect how you feel about yourself. Those parts of your past should be shared- either with your partner or a professional- and I say that because those things shape the kinds of partners you even choose. Those things impact whether you live a truly happy life. And those become issues that need to be worked through, not just events to be recounted. Let’s have an example…

I have two dads- the biological one wasn’t there as much as I needed him to be- even though he loves me and I know this. But I did have a father- an honorable man, who took on the noble and amazing task of raising someone else’s child. I never forget what both of them have given me, but I also never forget what the biological one did to me- by not being there. He gave me issues that I had to confront- because I would never have a healthy relationship if I didn’t. So, I fully intend that when I fall in love, that will come up- and it should. It shaped me, it contributed to every love I’ve had thus far. It needs to be talked about (not agonized over, but talked about) – so that I know I’m a different person.

I think that your comfort level with the other person is the most important thing. Conversation is second on the list. I don’t mean you talk, they listen- or vice versa. I mean real conversation, back-and-forth verbal discourse. Because if the other person is simply a fantastic listener, chances are you’ll be doing all the sharing. And at the end of it, they’ll know everything about you- but what will you know about them? I also believe that sharing past relationships and experiences should be like a paper with an outline- you hit the important points, and THEN fill in the blanks. I don’t think you should start with a full-blown dissertation. I think sometimes we overstep the boundaries of knowing people. You don’t have rights to every single facet of someone, even if you love them; that’s not owed to you, and I think because it’s given, we often forget that it’s not our right- it’s a privilege. I would suggest being reasonable. Subterfuge and secrecy isn’t necessary- but it’s okay to be private. It’s okay to be shy; it’s okay to give yourself time to get comfortable. Because whatever your past is or isn’t, first and foremost it’s YOURS. And because it can’t be changed anyway (unless I’m watching Quantum Leap, lol),  sharing it should be on your terms.  Just be careful not to ask for information that you aren’t willing to give…

 

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